I managed to get myself relatively early, because I had to do laundry and I was braced for it to take all morning and afternoon. The apartment doesn’t have a washing machine (which is actually pretty common in Europe, where apartment buildings rarely have common laundry areas), so I had to lug my laundry downstairs and about 20 metres up the street to the nearest Laundromat. The upside, however, was that doing your laundry in a Laundromat is freakin fast. You’ve got a whole row of washing machines, most of them unoccupied at 10am on a Friday morning, so you can just toss every load of laundry into the machines all at once, and then toss them all into one of the high-performance massive drum-barrel dryers for 20 minutes and your done. I did three loads in about 1.5 hours, including folding afterwards.
Anyway, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon doing a few chores and replying to some emails, and then I packed my bags and headed over to Gare du Nord. I ran into Fantômette’s girlfriend on the train platform, so we chatted a bit before getting into our respective traincars. The ride was short and pleasant, maybe an hour or so by TGV; I managed to get a bit more work done on my proposal revisions, which made me feel better about spending a weekend partying / researching.
Once in Lille, we each went to our respective hotels and dropped off our stuff. I then went over to Fantômette’s hotel and met the rest of the crew (mostly the Frenchy Krew from my Berlin summer), and we hung out and relaxed for a while. Eventually, we headed over to a little café in the old town, where a “before” party was going on; apparently, we had some stuff to drop off with the person running it.
We were all pretty damn hungry, so we found a pizzeria in the area and got some food, and then headed back to the hotel to meet some more of the crew who had arrived later. By approximately midnight, we were getting ready to head to the location of the music festival (which was just across the street from Fantômette’s hotel!). We usually wouldn’t go anywhere this early in the night, but Fantô had been here last weekend for the first part of the festival and she said that the location got packed really quickly and it soon became difficult to check your coat and get some drinks.
N.A.M.E. Festival 2008, Lille (Day 1)
The N.A.M.E. festival takes place over two weekends in Lille, France, during September every year. The festival has been around for 4 years now, and its links with city and regional government has allowed it to expand into a city-wide festival. Although the main events are certainly the 4 club soirées that take place over the two weekends, there are also workshops, seminars, concerts and exhibitions (go to the website and look at the event calendar, “Programmation,” to see their offerings). In this way, it’s actually pretty similar to Montréal’s mutek, although not yet as well-developed and far less interested in experimental music.
Anyway, one important way in which this festival is really similar to mutek is the importance placed on video and VJs for Electronic Dance Music performances. The festival has access to an event space called the Tri Postal, which is actually the city’s old mail sorting depot. They have divided the long rectangular open space of the main floor into two large rooms and mounted projection screens around probably 40% of the room (behind the DJ and along one wall). Then they had a different video artist do a set in parallel with each DJ set, which also meant that you didn’t just have one poor VJ doing all the same video for 6 hours. So you’ll notice that I’ve included a lot of pictures that I might usually throw out—blurry, underexposed, grainy—because the images on the video screens were worth keeping.
The party scene in Lille (and, according to the people I talked to, most of the North of France) is very young, exuberant to the point of approaching a mosh-pit, and very heavy drinkers/drug-takers. As a result, I got stepped on a lot, I took quite a few elbows to the ribs, I had at least two full drinks spilled on me (ugh, the stench of Red Bull), and droplets from more distant drink-related accidents all through the night. Anyway, here’s a blurry and oddly-exposed picture that probably best captures the kinetic, sweaty and chaotic aspects of the evening:
This set was rather slow and atmospheric, with very little that would motivate you to dance or throw up your hands. It was an OK warm-up set, perhaps, but it would’ve been better suited to a chill-out room or something. I managed to get some video of it, so you’ll see what I mean:
Anyway, we had arrived near the end of the set, so we just stood around and took care of our drinks until the next act started. In the meanwhile, though, I managed to get a few good pictures of the video screens.
Chloé’s live set was much more interesting than the previous one, but again it felt not very appropriate for a dancefloor. I think I would’ve loved her live set in a car, driving on the highway, or in my apartment, relaxing after a night of partying. The set started out as very abstract and atmospheric—which is not out of the ordinary for live sets—making use of echo effects on individual samples to create a sense of space. The various sounds eventually gained some sort of regularity and began to approximate a danceable beat, albeit a very slow one, but by then it was nearly 30 minutes into her set. In other words, she was halfway through her set and it didn’t feel like it had really started yet. This reminded me a lot of Chloé’s set at mutek last June, which was all downtempo and deep/dub, with her occasionally murmuring through a microphone. Again, I think the sound of it was pretty high quality, but it just didn’t work in the context provided. I’ve got a couple of clips from the set, which should give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
After about half an hour, I gave up on Chloé and headed over to the other room to hear Sebo K. His set was very solidly in what gets called “minimal” in Europe: minimal in the sense of slow-changing structures and sparse upper-range textures, but maximal in the sense of volume and intensity. I was thrilled to hear him spin that SIS track I have been talking about, but aside from that none of the tracks he put down really wowed me. The affective level of the whole set felt rather flat; there were no departures and returns, no shifts in texture and intensity that give shape to an overall set. Instead, the set was at a constant medium-high intensity, as if he was just showing us a bunch of tracks that he likes. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it and I got quite a bit of dancing in.
Tiefschwarz’s set was, as the French might say, très efficace. It got the crowd going and he showed great agility in mixing tracks in ways that maintained an exciting push-and-pull on the dancefloor, but I found his overall sound a bit loud and blunt. It was like he was taking minimal techno themes and setting them to bombastic “progressive house” tracks (see Paul Oakenfold). Also, he would occasionally decide to pay homage to “classic” house with vocal tracks and “funky” elements, but they generally fell very flat for me. I realize that this same tactic seemed to work really well in Berlin, but I think there was something with the choice of these “classic”-sounding tracks and the context that just made it fail for me. It was still a good set and I definitely had fun dancing to it, but the slick mixing techniques were marred by a heavy hand on the bass levels.
I decided to take a break for a while from Tiefschwarz and watch Marcin Czubala do his live set. I had seen him perform live at the Mobilee Summer Soirée about two months ago and had really liked it, so I was looking forward to hearing what he would do here. The set was pretty similar with what he had done at the previous party, but this time he seemed less interested in maintaining a consistently danceable groove, and more interested in inserting low-intensity moments in the set where he explored reverb and distortion effects in more abstract ways. The effect wasn’t unpleasant, but I often found myself waiting for him to return to a groove that actually hung together.
Aside from my inexplicable crush on the pair (especially Phage), I’ve been impressed by how these two mixed together when I was in Berlin. Their sets always seem to retain the finesse and subtlety of well-wrought techno while still making deft use of melodic basslines and well-times buildups to keep the crowd motivated and vibrating at a high frequency (so to speak). This set was no different, although maybe they were a bit more heavy-handed with the bass. I really enjoyed their set, and especially their attention to the sort of crackling, mid- and high-frequency rhythmic patterns that I really enjoy, but Anja Schneider was playing in the other room at the same time, so I had to move about halfway through their set.
I had also seen Anja Schneider at the Mobilee party in Berlin and had been really impressed with how her DJing skills have improved over time. Tonight’s set was probably one of the best sets I’ve heard from her and certainly my favorite of the night. She managed to shuttle between really intense, “maximal” minimal and the more delicate and subtle versions of minimal techno/house, which also gave a great overall rhythm of ups and downs to her set. Her set was at no point boring, and her selection was (mostly) excellent. He mixing skills were pretty flawless; I didn’t notice her mess up or make a rough transition, and more often I was noticing her ingenious techniques for transforming tracks into new works through the manipulation of effects and EQ levels.
At the end of the night, the bouncers immediately started shuffling us from one room to the next, past the coat check and through the doors. We eventually made it back to the hotel of Fantô and the Frenchy Krew, where we hung out for an hour or so before finally going our separate ways and getting some sleep. There was apparently an after-party going on somewhere in town, but nobody was really feeling up to it.